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Do Home Buyers Need an Apartment Inspection in NYC?


There are many costs associated with buying property in New York City. Although apartment inspections in NYC do not constitute the most major of these, they represent an area of significant confusion. How do they operate? When should you get one? And is an apartment inspection worthwhile for your NYC property? Here, we simply these issues and help you decide if an inspection the correct choice for you.

What is an apartment inspection?

An apartment inspection is a professional review of an apartment’s condition. They are carried out by a third party on behalf of the buyer in order to uncover any problems with the property that a viewing might have missed—anything from a jammed door to faulty plumbing. Inspections are usually scheduled after a deal has been agreed but before contracts have been signed, and give the buyer a fuller picture of the apartment’s condition.

It’s rare that an apartment inspection in NYC will discover issues so large that the deal will fall through, but they can offer both peace of mind and a detailed account of things that might need to be fixed.

Houses vs. apartments

In general, property inspections are relatively inexpensive. If you’ve bought a house in another part of the country, you’ll know that they’re a no-brainer. As the owner of a townhouse or standalone, you’ll be responsible for everything associated with that property, and the more information you have, the better you’ll be able to tackle any potential issues, or work them into the terms of the existing contract.

When it comes to apartment inspection in NYC, however, the situation is a bit more complicated. Read on to find out if your purchase would benefit from the services of an apartment inspector.

What’s different about an apartment inspection in NYC?

Houses are one thing—but what about buying an apartment? The majority of the housing stock in New York city is comprised of condos and co-ops, meaning that the building in jointly owned by a group of people. If you’re buying a house with its own lot then you, the buyer, will be responsible for everything on the inside and outside of that property—the costs fall solely on you for any repairs or fixes that are required.

When you buy an apartment in a larger building, you are only responsible for what happens within your own apartment. Structural issues, such as the roof, façade, elevator, general plumbing and wiring, are shared jointly between all of the owners.

Supers and Building Managers

The association that owns a condo or co-op will almost always have employed an on-site super or manager. Their job is to look after everything associated with the maintenance of the building. This situation isn’t unique to New York, but it is much more common in the city than in other areas of the country. If you own a house, these things are yours to take care of, if you own only a part of the building the super of building manager represents the joint interests of all the tenants and owners in keeping the building maintained.

Old vs. New

You might think that an inspection would be more appropriate if you’re buying into and older building, but this isn’t the case. In fact, older, larger buildings are often the worst candidates for inspections. The potential costs of any structural issues are spread among many individuals, so your exposure to risk is already diminished, and buildings that have been occupied and maintained for a long time are less likely to have fundamental flaws associated with them.

When it comes to newer buildings, especially condos with fewer individual housing units, an inspection might be worth your while. In these cases, an inspector can check that the apartment has been built to the appropriate standards, and that the installation of cupboards, doors, ovens, and electrical outlets has been completed in a satisfactory manner

What can an apartment inspection in NYC look for?

An inspector is hired to detail any potential problems with an apartment, and given that mandate and keen eye, chances are they will find some problems. Typical issues uncovered could involve:

  • Wiring and electrical outlets
  • Minor leaks
  • Door and window fittings
  • Painting and varnishing
  • Appliance functionality

What can’t they look for?

In many cases, an inspector will not be able to look at larger structural issues when looking over an apartment in a condo or a co-op. There is no law that gives inspectors the right of access to the inner workings of a building if the super or manager does not allow it. They will not be able to look at the fuse box, will not be able to take samples, will not be able to carry out any tests except what they can do on the individual apartment. To put it another way: these building already have full-time inspectors that are employed to maintain their condition. By hiring an apartment inspector in NYC, you might be doubling up on a role that is already being performed.

How much does it cost?

Apartment inspections in NYC are relatively inexpensive. Costs can vary based on the type of property being evaluated, but rarely exceed five hundred dollars. Compared to the other costs associated with purchasing property this might seem minor. But there is no point in paying for something you don’t need. While for many property purchases in the country an inspection is always the correct choice, for apartments in New York, it’s worth considering that you might be throwing money at a redundant exercise.

When should I schedule an apartment inspection?

Inspections are usually undertaken after a deal has been arranged, but before the contracts are signed. This is to allow for any problems that are discovered to be raised against the contracts as they stand. In the rare cases of severe issues, they might save you from buying into a mess and a money sink.

Should I accompany my inspector?

Most people will want to be present when the evaluation of the apartment takes place. Being there when the inspector examines your potential property can help you understand more precisely any issues discovered, as well as any potential solutions. The inspector will have the chance to explain in person their findings, as well as their recommendations for moving forward.

How long does and inspection take?

How long an inspection takes depends largely on the size of the property, as well as the individual style of the inspector. But don’t worry—even for a large townhouse, an inspection won’t take more than a couple of hours. For an apartment, they generally don’t take longer than forty-five minutes.

What happens after the inspection?

Whether you accompany your inspector or not, after their evaluation you will be issued with a report as to your potential property’s condition—this will include a write-up of all the issues and potential issues they have discovered.

What if the inspection reveals problems?

Because inspectors are paid to inspect, the report probably will reveal one or two small issues with your property. But don’t worry—most of the time, this will be nothing but a good thing. The vast majority of problems uncovered by inspectors are minor things like dripping taps or streaky paint. These won’t affect your deal, and it’s always helpful to know where a property’s issues lie, so that you can better tackle them.

Is an inspection worthwhile?

A lot of advice surrounding apartment inspections in NYC correctly highlights the difference between purchasing apartments and purchasing townhouses or whole buildings. An inspection on an apartment in an old co-op might not be a good use of your money compared to an inspection on a whole brownstone or an apartment in a new condo. New York’s system of condos and co-ops, supers and building managers, mean that for many properties, inspectors are already present.

No matter how thorough your inspector might want to be, they won’t have any legal access to areas of the building that you do not have yourself, and will only be able to see the same things you can see with your own eyes. Ultimately, however, whatever type of property you are purchasing, the choice is yours to make, and you might feel that the peace of mind is worth the expense.

Highly recommended:

  • Townhouses
  • Brownstones
  • Whole properties
  • Estate sale properties or fixer-uppers


  • New Builds
  • Units in smaller condos or co-ops

Recommended for peace-of-mind:

  • Apartments in older condos or co-ops
  • Apartments in larger buildings

How do I arrange a home inspection?

If you’ve decided that an apartment inspection is the right move for you—great! More information about a property is always a good thing, and if you think an inspector can provide you something you couldn’t get elsewhere, then it’s definitely a good idea. Check out these inspection services, which can offer you quotes, advice, and help to plan your inspection. And keep checking NewDevRev for more guides and recommendations on how to tackle the NYC housing market.

Contact a NewDevRev real estate expert today to help you with all your home-buying needs!